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Human rights advocates call for release of at-risk detainees amid COVID-19

Published:Monday | March 30, 2020 | 5:02 PM

In an attempt to stop the spread of the coronavirus (COVOD-19) and protect the lives of detainees in Jamaican detention facilities, advocacy groups and individuals have teamed up in making a request for the Government grant the immediate release of at-risk groups in police lock-ups as well as in remand and correctional centres.

The appeal came from Stand up for Jamaica, Horace Levy, Alexis Goffe, Rachel Goffe, Demoya Gordon, civil rights attorney in New York, Nancy Anderson and Jo Becker, children rights advocate in an email dated March 21 to Prime Minister Andrew Holness, the Ministers of Health, Security and Justice along with the Chief Justice, the commissioners of police and corrections and the director of public prosecution.

The advocates says they have deep concerned about the safety of detainees, given the deplorable conditions of Jamaican detention facilities. 

“These conditions are not fit habitation in normal times. During the unfolding COVID-19 pandemic, which has already reached Jamaica, these conditions are imminently life-threatening. To not take drastic and bold steps to protect the children and adults detained puts both those who are incarcerated, those who work in the detention centres and the general public at risk.”

Further, the advocates noted that reducing the number of people in detention is regarded as one of the most crucial steps to take in managing the COVID-19 outbreak. 

Here are the detainees who they want released:

1)Anyone that fits the Ministry of Health and Wellness’ criteria for at risk groups 

Persons 60 years and older 
Persons with a weakened immune system
Cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy 
Persons with chronic illnesses including heart disease, lung disease, kidney disease and diabetes 

2)  Children detained in lock ups, remand centres and correctional centres for being deemed uncontrollable.

3) Anyone being on remand for inability to pay cash bail, incarcerated with a release date in 2020 and incarcerated for failure to pay fines.

In addition, the advocates called for the release of plans and measures being taken in response to COVID-19 to ensure the safety and protection of those remaining in the facilities and its staff. 

- Danae Hyman

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